Sharolyn asked: How do I clean a double pane patio door? We recently placed an old camper on the back of our property, in the woods, to enjoy on weekends. The patio door has become so foggy on one section that we cannot see through it. We do not care if it is sealed or now, but would like to be able to sit inside and see out. How can we get to the inside of the door to clean it?
Double pane doors and windows consist of two panes of glass with a space between them. This bit of insulating air space increases the R value of the window, but it’s also prone to fogging, especially in older units or ones that withstand a lot of abuse from the elements. Fogging results when the seal fails or is compromised in any way, allowing moisture to seep through the barrier and into the space between the glass. Seal failure can occur with too much heat (when the seal softens and expands) or in cold temperatures (when it hardens and becomes brittle).
Once the seals fail and fogging begins, there’s no practical way to repair it. Theoretically, you would have to separate the panes of glass, clean and thoroughly remove all moisture, then reattach and seal them. Doing so without trapping any humidity is improbable, if not impossible, and then you need to replicate a factory-quality seal without breaking or damaging the glass. Therefore, the only way to truly rid your view of the fogging is to replace the door.
Some say to remove one of the panes so that it becomes a single-pane door. However, the fixtures are not designed for this and the single pane will fit loosely in the fixture. This makes it more prone to breaking and damage. Consider replacing the door with a low-cost single pane door, and you will have both a better view and stronger fixture.
Removing a Pane for Cleaning
Unfortunately, removing the seal and panes for cleaning is not a permanent solution. If you opt to remove the seal to clean the door, the problem will quickly reoccur. While the initial cleaning will remove the dirt temporarily, the lack of a seal will cause the door to fog over and collect dirt much quicker. If you choose to remove the panes and the seal for cleaning, consult your owner’s manual or manufacturer for the proper method to remove the glass panes. All doors are designed differently, and the disassembly steps are not the same for each door type. There are some much easier (though also temporary) remedies below in the Quick Remedies section.
If you can’t replace the window right away, here are some methods to remove the fogging temporarily.
- Put a dehumidifier near the window. This can be a dehumidifier machine, a small area dehumidifier like Damp Rid, or a homemade version like a bucket of charcoal briquettes with some holes drilled in the bucket lid. Keeping a water snake device along the base of the door may also help.
- Drilling a hole near the top of the door would allow you to thread a device between the panes to wipe them out. This device could be a pair of pantyhose on a drain snake (be sure the hole is large enough for the drain snake bristles to pull back out) or a sock duct taped onto a piece of wire. We also recommend that you tape a long string to the handle of the device so that you can retrieve it if you accidentally drop it.
- Another method that can work is to drill several holes along the top edge of the glass and one hole in a bottom corner. (The bottom hole can be anywhere, but having it near a corner makes it less noticeable.) Pour some isopropyl alcohol through the holes at the top to rinse out the windows using a curved funnel or turkey baster. When the glass is clear, put a pair of wool pantyhose on an unfolded wire hanger and thread the device through the hole at the bottom. Use the pantyhose to soak up the excess liquid. It is important to use alcohol and not water because alcohol dries much faster so it is not necessary to soak up every drop of the liquid.
Tips for New Windows
Newer technology has reduced the failure rate of properly installed double pane doors to 1% after 10 years and 3% after 15 years, so your investment should be a lasting one. To increase the lifetime of your new double pane doors, keep the following in mind:
- Purchase glass with a long warranty. This generally means a higher quality product, and if not, a premature failure is a covered repair.
- Inspect your glass periodically. Look for the seals to be in good shape. Any splits, cracks, or other deterioration is a warning sign that failure, and condensation or fogging, may be in your future.
- Keep glass clean and ensure good circulation around it. If dirt and moisture are allowed to build and remain on the outer surfaces, they will wear away at the seals and may speed up the process of failure.